When I was in college, I was trying to make myself into a man who values equality in all spheres of his life, as women kept saying that they wanted men who agreed with their political views. In fact women would reject my advances if I did not mouth the correct platitudes. In a left-leaning college, if I did not overtly agree that men and women should be equal in the bedroom, that when a woman says “No” that never means “Nooo—not right now”, if I did not agree that men are no different mentally, physiologically, or sexually from women, that men should be no more or less the providers of economic resources or child care to the family, and if I did not agree to an additional whole litany of feminist baggage, dating was not something I could look forward to. In other words, I felt I could not take charge and act as a kind and controlling presence in a relationship, since I had to verbally promise that I was not in any way like that.
When I complained about this to a lifelong friend he gave me very sage advice:
“Ignore what they (women) say. Watch what they do.” He said that some women both say they want an egalitarian relationship and act as though they do. He told me not to go out with those women because there would be no compatibility.
But he also told me that no matter how much many women think that they want full equality in a relationship, almost none of them actually do. He said that if I want to go out with a more traditional woman, watch how a woman behaves—how she responds to my traditional ethical take-charge male behavior—regardless of her radical feminist rhetoric. Don’t argue with her when she describes how evil men are in our “patriarchal culture,” but nevertheless do what I as a caring take-charge non-egalitarian-inclined man would do—open the door for her, pay the restaurant bill, and make sure she is safe when you walk her home through the dark streets.
He explained that women have an immensely powerful need to be seen to be equal to their man and right in any disagreement with their man and in their social context. If the current fashion at college is for women to be feminists (or socialists or whatever) that will usually be their stated position. Women with such views wish to be celebrated as politically correct and conform their views appropriately.
Men, on the other hand, have historically been more rebellious and independent thinking. Whereas women want to be seen to be right, and are more likely to want to fit in with their feminist peers, and may be more likely to conform in general, men tend to want to be effective (hopefully, in achieving what is right!).
In relationships, it is often the woman who points out that there is a sign posted that says that a footbridge is closed for repairs and should therefore not be crossed, even if convenient for the family to cross it. It is often the man who is more daring, notices that the bridge is structurally sound, and it will benefit the family to cross if they just don't step on the freshly painted areas—the only repairs being made. Such a man may agree with his wife that the sign says they shouldn't cross, but he then quietly demonstrates what he thinks best by crossing the bridge, and his family follows his confident lead.
If the family were to be stopped by the police, the man would not have been effective in meeting the family's needs, and his decision to cross would have been the wrong one. But if the bridge crossing is helpful, he is admired by his wife for his minor daring and the family shares in the convenience.
My friend's point is really that as men we need to allow women to be seen to be “right” in what they say, in general not argue that much—but judge their true intent by what they do in response to traditional (ethical) male behavior. Then we must strive to make decisions that are effective in achieving what is right for the relationship and ultimately the family—which actually gives them what they really want, their stated wishes for an egalitarian feminist-inspired relationship notwithstanding.
Eventually the language of radical feminism disappears or diminishes as the relationship progresses, because the woman is in fact mistaken in thinking that she wants an egalitarian relationship in which man and woman provide precisely the same input financially and in every other way. What she says she wants, and what she acts as though she wants, are two different things, and we men need to be sensitive to that, while not hurting her pride by pointing out the discrepancy.
My friend wisely said that a man needs to be insightful enough and brave enough to understand her desires, though they may be much deeper than what is reflected in her overt language. I agree.
On a personal note, I am married to the finest taken-in-hand woman in the world. Yes, she made me breakfast in bed this very morning!
Although she was never a feminist, she used be very opposed to marriage and even living in a couple relationship, and she used to say that men should not be in charge of a family, etc. etc.
And I used to not have the courage to see beyond the politically correct utterances of women.
Have you seen the following articles?
The joy of the master-queen dynamic
Egalitarian dating vs accepting gifts graciously
Who cares what others think?
Making it explicit versus keeping it implicit
No helpless hysterical heroines here
Actions speak louder than words
Enjoying consensual sexual aggression
Three female film characters I admire
Who Stole Feminism? by Christina Hoff Sommers: a book review
Equality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be